Race car driving is inherently macho, yet so many racing titles attempt to fill their game with manly euphemisms, hardcore explosions, goofy “speed animations”, and badass sounding game titles. After finishing Need for Midnight Rivals: Wanted Dead or Alive 6, players notice swiftly that from car to car, track to track, the experience is always the same. Then there is the Gran Turismo series, a slick and modern racing simulator rife with Japanese modern jazz and lacking in any impactful collisions or crashes. Sony’s long-lived racing franchise has made it to it’s sixth iteration, and like it’s predecessors Gran Turismo 6 is a wonderfully made racing masterpiece filled with dozens of locations and over one thousand cars. Unfortunately, Gran Turismo 6 could use a subtle dose of the excitement and action that comes with other racing titles.
Gran Turismo 6 begins with the purchase of a first vehicle, a puttering little hatchback that will quickly be cast off for a better, more personal ride. After the car purchase and a quick practice lap, players are thrown into the first race of their career. After this short and fun tutorial phase, players are given the freedom of choosing their race and purchasing power over all vehicles and modifications, if the price is right.
Single player features two main racing modes.. In the A-Spec, players do the racing themselves in numerous series of events and tournaments. Races are grouped by vehicle type, make, or power, as well as by various other special event descriptors, such as NASCAR or endurance groupings. With each completed race, a number of stars (up to three) are earned, and collecting stars unlocks special race challenges and license trials, the latter of which allow the player to progress through different racing circuits. A second mode, B-Spec, works quite similarly and has many of the same races, but places the player in the role of crew chief, guiding a employed racer around the track for a piece of the winner’s check. As of yet, B-Spec is not available but will come with a future update.
The racing is simply sublime. The vehicle and it’s tires respond with the road and it’s conditions in near perfect harmony. The grinding of an uphill race through the snow is a Russian ballet of video game programming. Each race track provides different surfaces and challenges that make each and every race a unique experience. Aerodynamics have been revamped to incorporate a vehicle’s shape and orientation. Each car handles uniquely based on it’s shape. The weather conditions have been updated to better affect race conditions, and sun glare and tunnel blindness has been revamped to beautiful levels. In addition, endurance races such as the Le Mans 24 hour race will have the rising and setting of the sun accurately happen in the background as the race progresses. Each car players acquire can be fitted with custom transmission and suspension, allowing for detailed car tuning that is required for winning multiple races with a single car.
The most glaring problem with the main racing experience is that crashes and collisions are at the lowest possible impact. Failed to hit the brakes and flew into a snow bank? The car simply bounces off. Crash into a cliffside highway barrier at 70 mph? The car won’t go flipping over the side, driver screaming as his horrid fate closes in on his psyche in the final, fleeting seconds of his life. It’ll simply stop and sort of shoot you back towards the track. The only consequence from poor driving is the occasional need to reverse out of a jam. Though Polyphony likely wishes to avoid the silly crash and respawn cliche (though it can happen if you’re particularly wild in the right spots), it would be more fitting of their “True Racing Simulator” tagline if a bad choice that leaves the car incapacitated results in a disqualification. Frustrating? Sure, but there is a certain charm to required smart racing, and it would fit in with Gran Turismo 6’s numerous other dedications to true-to-life race simulation.
Regardless of the kid glove conditions, other racers are highly conservative and slow, making almost every race a super easy sprint to the finish line. There is no difficulty setting and only one aggression setting that seems to only apply to arcade mode and not the main game itself. Winning is rarely a challenge in any of the races, unless the player makes a conscious decision to use a highly underpowered car. Even then, races are all too often easily won.
The main difficulty comes in the form of various mini-races and time-trial events that unlock as you progress through the main races. Coffee Break events are varied mini-games that challenges players to knock over cones, endure on one liter of gas, and various other quirky challenges. In addition, Mission Races have players running sections or one-lap time-trials, with various stipulations and objectives for each. Both modes provide a fun challenge and a nice break from the standard races. After enough stars are earned in the current circuit, license trials open that challenge players with set racing scenarios. Upon completion, the next circuit of races will open. Additional mini-game modes and challenges open with each new circuit license earned. As the game progresses, the player will be invited to take part in special events in special racing destinations such as the Goodwood Hillclimb. Shortly into the game, a special mode unlocks that provides a unique, extraterrestrial vehicle experience.
The crown jewel of the series has always been the cars and customization, and that holds true for Gran Turismo 6. The game boasts over 1,200 unique vehicles, with more to come via Vision Gran Turismo, a project that will release free-to-download special cars for game periodically. From the very beginning a high number of cars are available in the game’s dealership. All different makes, models, and styles of vehicles are available, making it easy to find the right car at the right price. After purchasing a car, players can apply a large number of modifications that add power, lower weight, and provide key customization options for making your car just perfect for different events. The animations are absent and menus for customization and vehicle purchasing aren’t are streamlined as they were in Gran Turismo 5. Regardless, the vehicle customization is the best feature of Gran Turismo 6 by far.
Gran Turismo 6 boasts thirty-seven individual tracks, including the Tsukuba Circuit, Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, and the world-famous Nürburgring. In addition to new tracks such as Brands Hatch and Willow Springs Raceway, the classic Apricot Hill makes a return to the series. Each track is well designed and the surrounding areas are well detailed.
The A-Spec and eventual B-Spec mode will provide players with hundreds of hours of play time alone, but they are not the only playing modes available. An arcade mode allows players to take their cars into any track in the game with their own settings applied, and Gran Turismo 6 even provides a stable of rental cars for arcade use. A local multiplayer mode is available in arcade mode as well, and online play will be available on day one of Gran Turismo 6’s release. Players can face-off against other online players, or race in special online events. Gran Turismo 5’s special online events was a much larger challenge to the single player races, and there is no reason to believe it will be any different for Gran Turismo 6.
The menus and user interface has been completely revamped to streamline everything into one large menu. Everything is easily and quickly accessible from the front page, and the submenus are all complete and equally easy to use. Whereas the new menus advance efficiency, they lose quite a bit in style. There’s nothing really special to look at in any of the menus, but that really isn’t a true negative, because who cares, right? The soundtrack is insanely deep and has a song somewhere on it that everyone will like. Most every major genre is represented, and the soundtracks can be customized individually for the menus, races, and events. Lastly, Polyphony promises to continue to support Gran Turismo 6 with future updates, adding such features as a Course Maker, GPS Visualizer, and the B-Spec mode.